As I graduate from Ryerson University’s prestigious School of Journalism, I find myself looking back on the incredible writing mentorship and experiences I’ve had throughout my degree. It feels simple enough to type this story, as I reflect on my personal writer’s journey to becoming a fashion and lifestyle journalist. However, like any other piece, I’m struggling to find the correct words, the right usage of emotion and the balance of language to share my thoughts.
How exactly do you write? Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Of course, it’s now 2015. Typewriters have been reduced to relics in antique shops, and twentysomething digital journalists like myself are now tracking our every move on social media. We still bleed (or maybe #bleed), but there’s a new self-awareness and self-consciousness with writing, largely due to the 24 hour news cycle and a highly competitive industry.
Here are 10 tips from an emerging writer. I hope that these can inspire you to break out that long-forgotten secret diary, or perhaps finally work toward that dream of being published. Let’s #bleed together.
1) You are as good as anyone else, maybe even better: It’s easy enough to pinpoint your peers as the future superstars. When in doubt about our own greatness, we tend to shift the responsibility to someone else. For many aspiring writers, that attitude can follow them into the real world. You are as good as anyone else, if not better. Who says that YOU are not the all-star in this room?
2) Words are not your enemy: In order to #bleed, we need to stop fearing words. Sadly, there are many languages I do not understand, like the spider web of HTML codes and the whispered, exotic phrases from my array of vibrant, multicultural friends as they call home. However, I am not afraid of the English language, and I will take the time to befriend that perfect sentence.
3) Look for inspiration in unexpected places: Whether you’re writing a journalistic story or a work of fiction, head into the great outdoors and interact with your fellow humans. Places like the park, waterfront, a library or a coffee shop can help bring your mindset from corporate and urban to creative and thoughtful.
4) Be grateful for great editing: Editors are a primary resource and solid source of support for up-and-coming writers. Ask for assistance and do not fear constructive criticism. Your writing is not perfect, but you’ve still got plenty of potential. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be receiving critique in the first place, would you? You’d be at home, watching “that movie about that girl who became a writer” on your laptop (and wishing you were her instead).
5) Promote and prosper: Today, the world of journalism and writing has become closely linked with marketing. Journalists and writers have to develop business savvy and social media skills for their published work to be noticed. Once you develop confidence in your written work, promote as often as possible on Twitter and Facebook. Chances are this will allow bored acquaintances from your past to track your EVERY single career move on social media. On a positive note, you can also inspire others, share your work and bring awareness to your story topics. You’re an all-star, aren’t you?
6) Take a break to stay efficient: Whether it’s a phone call with an old friend (by old friends, I do not mean potentially nosy acquaintances, see #5) or a quick walk, a refreshing break can help you stay on deadline. By bringing focus and a clear mind to your work, you’re more likely to write a successful story.
7) Keep your words simple to relate to your readers: I’ve learned that good writing is concise, witty and to the point. This is a tough skill to master, but it’s essential to think of your reader. To keep your audience engaged, offer all the facts, use simple language, and add in a joke or two if you can. Humour will keep your writing fresh, which will keep your readers tuned into your story- and away from Netflix.
8) Carry a pen and notebook at all times: Recently, I did an interview with a brilliant, engaging subject. I was speaking to her on the phone and also recording the conversation on an iPad placed next to me, when I realized that the speakerphone was NOT on! Technology can fail all journalists, so always take notes if you can. Even a black liquid eyeliner and a receipt from 7-11 beat the alternative of lost information.
9) Have other hobbies: Journalism, especially covering fashion, beauty, culture and lifestyle topics, is my passion. However, as much as I love writing and am privileged to be a young writer, I believe that everyone should also have another hobby. Join a mermaid swimming class (yes, such a thing exists), hit the gym or stay creative with arts and crafts. Your mind and body will thank you, and you may get a story out of it.
10) Spread the love of literacy: Writing is known to be therapeutic, as an expressive release of emotion. Spread the love by mentoring youth through writing, or helping international students master their essay skills. Perhaps, you can even discover the next all-star writer. You’ve made it this far, after all.